the magpies and kookaburras for company. Father always came back as quickly as possible. But today, because of driving the cow, he had been a very long time: and towards dusk Hugh could bear the silence of the house no longer, and had come to sit on the gate-post and watch the road. It was really listening more than watching: straining his ears to catch, through the trees, the first faint hoof-beats. He would have picked out old Nugget's canter among a hundred horses.
If he had anything to do it would not have been so bad. But there were no jobs. Even Father had scarcely any now. There was enough firewood to last a month, for it had only to be picked up under the trees on the road. The table was ready for the evening meal, but as there was nothing in the house to eat except half a loaf of stale bread and the scrapings of a pot of jam, that did not take long. Hugh had finished the lessons Father had set—doing them with a thoroughness possible only to a small boy with nothing whatever to occupy him. He had read all his story books, over and over again, so that they no longer tempted him. There were no neighbors within three miles. So he had "mooched about" until his legs were tired, wandering in the scrub, climbing trees, practicing the gymnastics Father had taught him, on low, smooth branches. After these things failed there seemed only the gate-post left. There, at least, was a chance of seeing some one. It might be a bullock-driver, plodding along in the dust beside his crawling team, or the cart from the store in the township, delivering goods to bush